Alltrack Highway Manners, MPG, Crosswind Behavior – Alltrack Road Trip!

I’ve done about 350 miles on my Alltrack road trip, Denver to Santa Fe. Plus a few more dozens driving hither and yon to campgrounds, food trucks, and cafes.

Average speed is 66 mph, top speed was around 90 mph, and fuel economy is ranging from 38 mpg to 28 mpg, the lower number because of sometimes significant headwinds, perhaps reaching 30 mph. That’s my estimate based on getting out for a few rest stops and giving it my best guess. They were strong, pushing me as I stood.

My Alltrack is performing well. I can’t believe how good Apple Carplay is. Its maps aren’t as good as Google Maps with the odd destination request, like campgrounds. The routing for instance insisted I drive around the Santa Fe National Forest to get to the Black Canyon Campground, which was incorrect and circuitous.

Otherwise, CarPlay and its Apple Maps are great co-pilots. I don’t know how I did roadtrips before.

I use an app called Libby to listen to audio books (The Sea-Wolf currently), and of course it isn’t given an icon on the CarPlay desktop, but it is available under a generic catch-all icon called Now Playing. I can start, stop, FF and rewind with the steering wheel controls. Pretty cool.

Now, complaints

  1. seats — I’m just not happy with the base seats… they’re not as comfortable as those in my 20-year-old Volvo 850 that I traded in on the Alltrack
  2. slight crosswind drifting/buffeting

Alltrack Roadtrip Capability Summary

If the seat uncomfortability thing was solved (I’ll post at length about this coming up soon – OEM seat alternatives), the Alltrack would be a nice inexpensive highway cruiser. Maybe the nicest out there. As it is, if you want long legs capability, go up trim levels to the Alltrack SEL.

Going up to the SEL is a big dollar jump, and it wipes out much of the Alltrack’s fantastic value. It’s the classic car value proposition: buy the top trim of Car A, or the bottom trim of Car B, which in this case would be a base Audi A3 ($31,200 MSRP) or base BMW X1 ($33,750 MSRP), for example.

Golf Alltrack base, AKA “S” (from $26,950 MSRP)

  • Rearview camera
  • V-Tex leatherette seats
  • Touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay
  • Heated front seats
  • 17-inch Valley wheels
  • Off-Road Mode

Golf Alltrack SE (from $30,530 MSRP)

  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Fender Premium Audio System
  • Keyless access with push-button start
  • Automatic headlight activation

Golf Alltrack SEL (from $32,890 MSRP)

  • 18-inch Canyon wheels
  • Discover Media touchscreen navigation
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Comfort sport seats/power-adjustable driver’s seat

Alltrack Value

I got my base Alltrack for $24,400, and considering its MSRP of $26,950, it’s a very, very good car. If the seats were great it would be the best deal in cars, ever.



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My Alltrack Got 41.3 MPG Highway

Measuring Alltrack Highway MPG – Background

This may be overdoing a simple Alltrack highway MPG report, but here it is anyway. This route I’ve driven well over a hundred times. The outbound (from Denver) leg is always worse on fuel economy than the inbound leg.

Summary: my new Golf Alltrack got 41.3 MPG on a 54-mile highway run.

It’s almost certainly the elevation change: Denver is 5280 feet above sea level, Castle Rock is 6224 feet above sea level. That’s a 147:1 ratio when computing the angle, given distance (28 miles on I-25) and height (1000 feet) = .34° incline.

There might be prevailing winds working on this also, I don’t know. It’s routine to get worse economy going to Castle Rock, whatever the case. In my Volvo 850 T5, I’d typically get 27 mpg going out, and 34 mpg coming back.

Golf Alltrack Highway MPG – Route and Distance

Here’s the Denver-Castle Rock route in Google Maps. It’s 57 miles round trip.

Alltrack Highway Economy – Methodology

  • I press the MPG reset button after my Alltrack has gotten up to speed on the highway, after the entrance ramp. This cuts out variables.
  • I don’t hypermile – no drafting, no turning the engine off (which to me has always seemed incredibly dangerous). Just normal driving. I kept the Alltrack in 6th gear the entire trip.
  • My average speed is a few ticks over the posted limit… which ranges from 60 to 75 MPH. I didn’t do a speed run, nor was I a right-lane squatter.
  • The weather was mild. There was no precipitation or strong winds.
  • The load was just me, plus around 20 pounds of miscellaneous stuff in the car. Zero passengers.
  • Fuel octane was premium, 91 octane.

I’m very pleased! I thought I could flirt with 40 MPG before I bought my Alltrack. Then the first week brought fairly dismal fuel economy numbers, and my 40 MPG dream faded. But it turns out those early numbers were engine break-in numbers, and now that I’ve crossed 1000 miles, fuel economy is rising.

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Alltrack Ownership Impressions & MPG – One Month Into It

After exactly four weeks of 2017 Golf Alltrack ownership,  here are my fuel economy metrics and overall Alltrack ownership impressions

  • 23 MPG
  • 772 miles driven
  • 43 hours 13 minutes of driving
  • 18 MPH average speed

As you can see, it’s 99% city driving in my manual 6-speed Alltrack. Eighteen MPH average is painful, yes, but it is what it is. I drive often in rush hour city traffic to get my son to and from school, and to take him to various team sports practices and games.

Twenty-three miles per gallon is one MPG better than the EPA city rating, so there’s that. And it’s not off Fuelly’s broad, combined MPG 25.2 average for Alltracks. Therefore I suspect my highway fuel economy will be pretty damn good when I get to see it.

Alltrack Ownership, Alltrack Comfort, Alltrack Impressions

The driver’s seat comfort has improved, or rather, my body has adapted to the car. The first few days my right leg and ankle would feel uncomfortable — the angle of my foot vs. my leg using the gas pedal was greater than that of my prior car, so that initially was a problem. Now my muscles have adapted to the angle and nothing is fatigued any longer.

The seat is fine, and I’ve settled in to my driving position — medium seat bottom height, nearly all the way back on fore-aft track, upright-ish seatback angle.

I’ve washed her once and filled up on 87 octane (US measure) twice.

My Alltrack’s fuel economy is steadily improving.

I ordered a JB4 piggyback tune after declining the VW dealer APR tune at a wallet-crushing $2400.

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APR Tune at VW Dealer: $2400 – Declined – Maybe a JB1

Aftermarket tunes available from several vendors are $500-$750, and this APR tune specifically is $599 without the labor of installing it, so when my sales guy told me a dealer-approved/installed APR tune for the Golf Alltrack would be 4X as much, I almost fell out of my chair.

A tune is a product that re-writes some or all of the programming on a car’s computer. The goal is more power.

Factory programming usually leaves a great deal of headroom for engine longevity, so getting more power — especially from a turbocharged engine — isn’t difficult. Getting more power out of a non-turbo (“normally aspirated”) engine is very expensive compared to a turbocharged engine.

So why get the tune at the dealer in the first place? The upside of getting the tune at time of delivery is that it’s a dealer-approved modification that doesn’t void your warranty. I was expecting to pay more at the dealer. Keeping the VW warranty intact while enjoying the extra horsepower of a tune is a win-win. But the “lose” in all this is the price.

$2400 is a steep price to pay for 35 HP.

At $2400 it wasn’t even close. At 1-2X, I’d have gone for it. But two-and-a-half grand is absurd.

Alltrack Tune Plan B

Alltrack tune plan B isn't actually a tune, it's a "piggyback".
Alltrack tune plan B isn’t actually a tune, it’s a “piggyback”.

I’ll probably pick up a $379 “JB1” piggyback module for my new Golf Alltrack [very lengthy forum discussion here]. It’s not a tune in the traditional sense, but runs alongside the factory tune on the car’s ECU.

The JB1 is a true user adjustable plug and play solution for all MQB based models in the VW Audi Group range. Power Gains: Starting at 35whp and 35ft lb with 91 octane with + 4.80psi boost over stock on the default setting. Engine estimates are 50bhp gained and 45ft lb.

It’s a configurable device that boosts boost. I might see more MPG if I can keep my foot out of it. And therein lies the paradox: it gives VW 1.8 and 2.0 liter EA888 engines a nice kick to the midrange power. So it’ll be difficult to keep my right foot light. Let’s be honest. I’m not getting this for fuel economy.

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Lifetime MPG Improves to 22.9 MPG – Golf Alltrack

… and by lifetime, I mean three weeks and 623 miles. After the first week of exploring the Alltrack’s power, I’ve moved to the Gentle Zone of Fuel Economy Zen, where I short shift to keep the RPMs down.

Dictating Notes via CarPlay Works

For the fun of it — not expecting much in terms of success  — I used CarPlay to create a note. Like most others out there, I think of things while I’m driving.

I didn’t know any keywords or how to go about it. I just said “Create new note” and Siri responded by asking what I want the note to say, and we went from there.

Notes land in the iCloud section
Notes land in the iCloud section. As good a place as any… maybe better, because right off they’re available not only on my phone, but on my Mac laptop and iPad also. Plus, they’re backed up more reliably than my home backup system allows.

Not only did it work straight up, I found the notes pretty much where I’d expect them — in my iPhone 7’s Note app. Very cool.

After not having any trouble with the voice command “Create new note” and dictating my thought, I did another. This makes driving “productive” in that I can dictate thoughts as they come to me and save them in a format (Notes app) that makes it easy to share and edit. I’m happy.

For what it’s worth, I’ve found iOS to be near 100% at transcribing my voice. I can’t remember the last time I had to repeat something.

Don’t Lose Those Two Keyfobs You Get

The first note I made was because of a bit of a revelation. There are no keyholes on the Alltrack doors. There is nowhere to insert a key on the outside of the car. There’s the ignition, and that’s it.

If the keyfob doesn’t unlock the doors, you’re not getting in your Alltrack. Well, you’re not getting in that moment… there’s always Car-Net. See my Car-Net posts.  With Car-Net, you can (supposedly — haven’t tried) unlock your VW from the Car-Net app, or call them and they’ll do it remotely.

Infotainment/Carplay Sometimes Forgets What It’s Doing

The second note I made while driving was that the infotainment system sometimes has glitches. For instance today I did the usual CarPlay directions command (hold down the driver talk button on the steering wheel) to get the best route to my destination. Siri read back my command which was correct, then the system glitched and the Sirius XM station resumed playing. No route, no error message, no explanation.

Press the talking head button on the steering wheel
Press the talking head button on the steering wheel to trigger all this stuff. It’s how you begin any CarPlay interaction.
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The Fog Lights Setting is Proving… Difficult

I can’t turn the switch to turn the fog lights on.

When I go to turn on the fog lights using the headlight switch… it won’t go into the switch position detent. Of course it says “pull”, so I pull, but the switch feels like it’s going to pull off, so I back off. My instinct says I need to pull a bit and turn to the left a bit to get the dial to go to the fog light position. Whatever the case, I haven’t figured it out yet.

I’ll figure it out. Like with everything cars/electronics/software, I just need to noodle with it until I “get it”.

In other news, my Alltrack cracked 33 MPG today driving from Castle Rock, Colorado, to Denver. I drove mostly with a light right foot, keeping her in 6th gear. I’ve found rain or snow are good for a 1-2 MPG penalty on any highway driving. And today it’s been snowing, causing visibility and wet roads, but no snow accumulation on the roads.

I like the friendly temperature reminder/warning that appears on the instrument cluster screen about 2 minutes after starting the Alltrack. There’s an audible tone that accompanies this.

My 2017 Golf Alltrack after driving in light snow for an hour.
My 2017 Golf Alltrack after driving in light snow for an hour.

It looks like these happen under 40° fahrenheit. I got one that said 38° and the other said it was 33°. That’s good information presented simply. My 1997 Volvo 850 would illuminate a small orange light next to a snowflake graphic on the instrument cluster that stayed illuminated for the entire drive, as long as the temperature was roughly 28-38°, which was not quite annoying, but close.

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